November 11th was here and it was time for HLT’s “All About Beavers” event led by naturalist Drew Johnson. Mother nature must have known the value of this event because in between all our days of rain, she gave us a brilliant, sunny day to walk through pasture and on woodland trails to discover the hidden life of beavers. Our journey began with walking passed a beaver pond whose beauty was enhanced by the mowed fields and pasture on either side of it.
First, we saw a large, solidly built beaver lodge that looked like it might house more than one chamber. It was in a secluded area just beyond the edge of the pasture, a perfect location for Drew to show participants his beaver artifacts and begin sharing his knowledge. We learned a range of facts from the history of the over-trapping of beavers in the 1700s which caused their elimination in our area, to the existence of two oil glands that are on their lower back. One of the uses of this oil is to waterproof their fur when they groom themselves.
Drew showed us samples of beaver scat which they eat to get the remaining nutrients out of it, a beaver pelt, sticks and wood chips chewed by beavers, and a treasure he found when he was twelve years old, a beaver tooth. Beaver teeth never stop growing so beavers must chew to wear them down!
We then walked to another pond where the dam had been breached last August, emptying the pond. The beavers are repairing this dam now and the waters are slowly rising, but the opening to the beaver lodge, which is usually under water, is still visible. To frame the entrance to the lodge, the beavers had placed a heavy, V-shaped piece of wood upside-down securing the doorway.
Finally, we visited a hillside with a series of smaller ponds that the beavers had created with multiple dams. This took us to the original pond in the woods which has been abandoned for decades. Drew explained that when an abandoned pond drains, the land–now free of trees–benefits wildlife and offers humans ready-made farmland with nutritious soil.
Our group left the woods right before sunset, some of us with a wet foot or two and others with notes about beaver behavior. Thank you all for joining Drew Johnson and HLT for this fascinating, educational afternoon.